Sat, Dec 15, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Church renovation lifts Christmas spirit in Bethlehem
伯利恆教堂修繕完工 振奮耶誕節慶精神

A nun prays at the Grotto in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday.
在以色列占領的西岸地區,一名修女在伯利恆市的耶穌誕生教堂內,對著石室祈禱,攝於週三。

Photo: EPA
照片:歐新社

A historic renovation of the Church of the Nativity is lifting spirits in the biblical town of Bethlehem ahead of Christmas, offering visitors a look at ancient mosaics and columns that have been restored to their original glory for the first time in 600 years.

City officials hope the renovation at the traditional birthplace of Jesus will boost tourism and a weak economy in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and perhaps slow a decades-long drain of the Christian population from the lands where the faith was born.

The renovation started in 2013, a year after UNESCO declared the church a world heritage site, and is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

One of Christianity’s most sacred shrines, the church was built in the fourth century by St. Helena over a cave where the Virgin Mary is said to have given birth. What pilgrims mostly see today is the basilica built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, who ruled from 527 to 565. Neglected for decades before the renovation, the roof of the church was leaking, windows were broken, mosaics were covered in grime and walls and columns were damaged. After five years of work, it has been transformed.

Bethlehem is heavily dependent on Christmas tourism, with hotels, restaurants and gift stores doing much of their business during the short holiday season. The renovated church has become a popular destination.

(AP)

伯利恆耶穌誕生教堂的史跡整修工程,讓這座聖經中的著名城市在耶誕節前精神為之一振。六百年來,參觀者首度能夠一睹古老馬賽克鑲嵌畫和圓柱修復後展現出的往日榮光。

藉由修繕耶穌傳統上的出生地,市政府官員希望可以促進觀光,改善以色列占領的西岸地區當地疲弱的經濟,或許也藉此減緩這處信仰發祥地長達數十年的基督教徒人口流失。

整修工程始於二○一三年,也就是聯合國教科文組織宣布將該教堂列為世界遺產翌年,預期將於明年底完工。

耶穌誕生教堂是基督教中最為神聖的聖殿之一,西元四世紀時由聖海倫納建造於傳說聖母瑪利亞生下耶穌的馬槽原址。不過,今日朝聖者看到的絕大部分建築,主要是拜占庭帝國查士丁尼一世(統治時期為西元五二七年到五六五年間)建造的長方形教堂。在修繕行動開始前,這間教堂被忽略了數十年,不但屋頂漏水、窗戶破損、馬賽克鑲嵌畫遭塵土覆蓋,只見斷垣殘壁和受損的石柱。經過五年多的努力,現在教堂已大為改觀。

伯利恆市極度仰賴耶誕節的觀光業。當地旅館、餐廳、紀念品店整年的業績主要都來自於這個短短的假期。修復後的教堂,現在已成為大受歡迎的旅遊景點。

(台北時報章厚明譯)

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